Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn looks at the scoreboard during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/April L. Brown)
*Courtesy Auburn Media Relations
AUBURN, Ala. - The crowd at Auburn Arena was already buzzing Thursday night. Auburn, trying to break an almost year-long Southeastern Conference basketball losing streak, led Alabama 30-22 at halftime. As the video board hanging over the court at Auburn Arena turned to football, the capacity crowd roared. As highlights of the Nov. 30 game against Alabama appeared, it grew louder.
As the screen showed Chris Davis gathering in a missed field goal and running 109 yards for a 34-28 Auburn victory, head coach Gus Malzahn and his players walk onto the court. The place went nuts.
One more time, Auburn players, Auburn coaches and Auburn people in general got to enjoy the remarkable season of 2013.
It didn't end the way they all wanted it to end. Florida State made off with the national championship when it scored with 13 seconds left at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. But that didn't matter on a cold Thursday night.
The Foy Sportsmanship Trophy that goes to the Iron Bowl winner is presented each season at halftime of the winner's home basketball game. Traditionally, the Student Government Association president from the losing school sings the winning school's fight song.
But no one at Alabama was at Auburn Arena. The explanation was that the weather made travel impossible. The crowd booed lustily at that news. How or when the trophy itself made the trip from Tuscaloosa to Auburn is another question. It didn't matter. The crowd joined in singing the fight song.
It was a night for celebrating, and celebrate the people inside Auburn Arena did.
Malzahn, who won enough Coach of the Year awards to fill his own trophy case, saluted his players. He called Auburn fans the best in the country. And then he said "I'm here to tell you, this trophy, it's going to be here a while."
The place went nuts again.
Already, the Auburn football team of 2014 is taking shape. Winter workouts are in full gear. It is at this time last year, players will tell you, that the Southeastern Conference champions of 2013 came to believe in each other, in their coaches and in their destiny.
They went out and answered a 3-9 record with a 12-2 record. They answered going 0-8 in the SEC with an SEC championship. And they came oh so close to winning the biggest prize of all. Along the way, they became one of the more beloved teams in Auburn's football history.
Thursday night, they got to celebrate with their fans one more time.
When that was done, the Auburn men's basketball returned to the court and put a 74-55 whipping on the Crimson Tide, breaking a string of 16 consecutive losses against SEC teams. The crowd cheered again.
Finally, they did what Auburn fans loved to do and turned Alabama's "rammer jammer" chant into an Auburn chant.
Auburn's football team got the trophy that, after the 2012 season, seemed might be a long time coming back. And then the basketball team dominated Alabama.
For the fans who streamed happily out of Auburn Arena, it doesn't get much better than that.